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In Logan, Australia, a family awaits their package delivery via drone. Photo: Wing

Drone delivery still seems exotic to most of us, but people in Logan, Australia, near Brisbane, routinely get food and other items delivered from the sky.

Why it matters: On-demand delivery is growing alongside an explosion in e-commerce, fueled by changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic. With roadways ever more congested, airborne delivery could sometimes be a faster option.

What's happening: This weekend, Google's drone delivery service, Wing, expects to hit 100,000 deliveries in Logan, two years after starting operations there.

  • More than 50,000 deliveries were made in the past eight months, including a record 4,500 in the first week of August.
  • That includes more than 10,000 cups of coffee, 2,700 sushi rolls, 1,000 loaves of bread and 1,200 hot chooks (Australian slang for rotisserie chickens).
  • Wing started in two Logan neighborhoods and now serves 19 suburbs with a combined population of more than 110,000 people.

Of note: The Google delivery milestone comes a few weeks after Wired reported that Amazon's drone delivery program in the U.K. was "collapsing."

State of play: There are various commercial drone trials in the U.S., but the Federal Aviation Administration is still writing safety and navigational rules.

  • For now, drones can't fly beyond the line of sight of the operator, which limits any kind of regular delivery service.
  • Wing has an FAA waiver to test drone deliveries in a portion of Christiansburg, Virginia.
  • It is also offering drone delivery in Canberra, Australia, and parts of Helsinki, Finland.
  • Silicon Valley-based Zipline delivers medical supplies via drone in Rwanda and Ghana. It will begin a delivery trial with Walmart later this year in Bentonville, Arkansas.

How it works: Wing's operation in Logan is a live, automated, on-demand service.

  • Customers use the Wing app to place orders from one of 11 participating vendors operating out of one of Wing's "nests," or operation centers.
  • Available items include coffee, food, hardware, clothing, pet supplies and beauty products — up to 3 pounds.
  • The vendor secures the order inside the package and attaches the box with a clip to the underside of the drone, which itself weighs just 10 pounds.
  • Wing's software chooses the optimal route to the destination, which can be as small as a picnic-table-sized clearing in someone's backyard, driveway or a nearby park.

When the drone arrives, it descends and hovers while the package is dropped down on a line. When it reaches the ground, the clip automatically releases the package, and the line recoils inside the drone.

  • Customers never interact with the drone itself.

By the numbers: The 3-pound weight cap would seem to be a limiting factor, but Wing says 90% of last-mile deliveries weigh less than 5 pounds.

  • We checked: The average rotisserie chicken — er, hot chook — is about 2 pounds, per Betty Crocker.

Be smart: Drone deliveries could be a novel service, but the real opportunity for drones is industrial. They can be used to survey and inspect buildings, pipelines and bridges, for example, keeping workers safely on the ground.

A Wing drone flying over Logan, Australia. Photo: Wing

Go deeper: Fly me a pizza (or two)

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

German delivery startup Gorillas is raising $1 billion

Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images

Gorillas, a German grocery and convenience item delivery platform, reportedly is raising $1 billion at a $2 billion pre-money valuation from backers like Delivery Hero.

Why it matters: This reflects how "legacy" delivery players are seeking access to instant, hyperlocal upstarts (i.e., the GoPuff model). That's why DoorDash was in talks earlier this year to back Gorillas, but reportedly is participating in a round for rival Flink at a $2.1 billion valuation.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.